McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Problem-Based Learning attracts healthcare leaders from across the Pacific

By Suzanne Morrison
Published: June 2, 2014
Saowapa Dedkhard visits McMaster
Saowapa Dedkhard (left), a nursing instructor at Boromrajonani College of Nursing in Thailand, is visiting McMaster to participate in the International Interdisciplinary Summer Institute. Dedkhard says she's eager to share McMaster's unique Problem-Based Learning techniques with her students back home.

In Thailand, Saowapa Dedkhard knew about the "McMaster approach."

Now, she's learning it firsthand at the eighth-annual International Interdisciplinary Summer Institute organized by McMaster's Global Health Office.

"We've heard a lot about McMaster at home and that it originated Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and how it's famous for this," said Dedkhard, a nursing instructor at Boromrajonani College of Nursing. "That's why I wanted to come to McMaster and join a workshop, learn about PBL and take it back to Thailand to use with my students."

Since the late 1990s, public health leaders in Thailand have been committed to improving their country's education system. Traditional lecture-style programs are moving towards more flexible programs, which require students to be motivated, lifelong learners with a capacity for self-directed learning and continuing professional education.

In keeping with this initiative, throughout May and June, 82 health science professionals from Thailand's Ministry of Public Health's Praboromarajchanok Institute for Health Workforce Development are coming to McMaster in three sessions. They include public health, nursing, pharmacy and medical technology faculty.

Earlier in May, 20 doctors of nursing practice (DNP) students from Drexel University in the United States attended a "Special Topics in Leadership" course at McMaster. At the end of June, 12 faculty from North West University in South Africa will be attending the Summer Institute.

The ongoing goal of the Institute is to share ideas and best practices with colleagues from around the world regarding educational approaches in the development of healthcare workers. The "McMaster Approach" has been adopted in whole or in part by many universities across the globe — from Botswana to Japan.

It's an approach that keenly interests Dr. Pattama Thongsom, director of the educational development division in Thailand's Ministry of Public Health, who is in Canada for the first time. "We are here at McMaster for help in learning how to motivate students," she said.

"It is very rewarding to see many universities the world over want to come to the Health Sciences at McMaster to tap the rich store of research and educational expertise that exists within our faculty," said Andrea Baumann, associate vice-president, Global Health. "It is an honour to host such a large delegation from Thailand and, through this, know our faculty has also benefitted by the mutual exchange of ideas."

Associate professor of nursing Mabel Hunsberger, who planned the summer institute's program, said the enthusiasm, curiosity and keenness of the Thailand professors is evident in their questions and attention to the program. "They are eager to take back new skills and knowledge to augment the quality of education for health professionals to ultimately impact the health of the citizens of Thailand," she said. "It is a privilege to create and offer this special program with the assistance of McMaster faculty, especially Professor Yvonne Lawlor."

Dedkhard said McMaster faculty are generously sharing their expertise with colleagues from different institutes across Thailand. "I feel they are the real teachers. Yesterday, we had our first PBL demonstration and I can learn to be a PBL role model from them."

While PBL is the main reason for the delegation's visit to McMaster, they are eager to understand more about Canadian culture, its food and attractions.

"We love the buildings on the McMaster campus," said nursing instructor Sireewat Ar-Yuwat, adding the Ride Your Bike To Work campaign really caught her eye. Outside of the classroom, they are thrilled at their hosts' thoughtfulness in providing everyone with traditional Thai cooking utensils, letting them prepare familiar home-cooked meals when they are thousands of miles from home. All they needed to bring were a few spices.

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